Kingston has been a long overdue for more sets of umlauts in its window-fronts, and now we finally have some. “Hetta öl beer and bites,” lovingly lettered upon the storefront at 85 Broadway, welcomes in patrons from the cold winter winds and nourishes them back to warmth with a cordial cup of warmed, spiced Hetta Nordic Glögg.
Glögg — pronounced (at least in Sweden) “glug” or “gloog” — is a traditional holiday mulled wine often served around Christmas and other Scandinavian social gatherings. It’s similar to other mulled wines such as Germany’s Gluhwein and Chili’s Navegado. It is often referred to as grog, which, in addition to being the British Royal Navy’s traditional rum-based tipple, is a catch-all term, for variety of mulled, spiced wine drinks.
Hetta began producing several years ago from their Broadway warehouse location, and the glögg in its sleek, artful bottle featuring a red “Dala” horse is sold in more than 400 stores, restaurants and bars in the tri-state region. The “Dala” horse was carved by Swedish woodcutters in the Dalarna province, intended as gifts for children.
Hetta first began production in Rhinecliff, however owner Darren Davidowitch said it became clear to him that they needed a more industrial location where trucks could load and unload. The search for adequate warehouse and production space led him to the upper Rondout on Broadway, with the “added bonus” of a neighborhood, he said. “We really like having daily foot traffic and supportive, entrepreneurial neighbors — in fact, it was Michael at Kingston Wine Company, who first alerted us to the fact that the building we now occupy was available. Even before we decided to open our tasting room, öl, we viewed these as major pluses, now with öl open, the benefits are even greater.”
According to öl — that’s Viking for beer, mate — manager Matt Winkler, Hetta’s original production fermented quite naturally; Amy Davidowitch’s Uncle Olaf would gift it to her family from Norway, and they would enjoy it every Christmas season. From there, Amy and Darren began to make it at home to gift for the holidays. And so it began.
Glögg is surprisingly simple to make. The company buys Concord, Niagara, Melody and Maréchal Foch grapes from farms in the Finger Lakes, where they’re turned into a wine and then sent to Kingston. The wine is then infused with a teabag filled with cinnamon, cardamom, raisins and orange peel. After it soaks for a few weeks, it is heated in a machine with brandy for several hours and then bottled hot.
The warehouse is not your typical, grungy, setting for an episode of Law & Order kind of place. Rather, the impeccable warehouse is Nordically furnished with a white sofa and white floor lamp, and modern Danish white pendant overhead lighting. They are manufacturing over 2,400 gallons of Hetta a year. The öl beer and bites tasting room resembles a bright, clean corner of an Ikea showroom, minus the angsty holiday shoppers but with seating for 18. The menu, fit for a Stockholm-style fika, offers sundries such as black bread grilled cheese and gravlax. There are cheese plates, and a charcuterie plate with duck breast. Another dish offers the curious combination of pickled oyster mushrooms, caramelized leeks and yogurt.
There are four ever-rotating taps and they always carry black cherry kombucha by Darragh studio. “[We carry] the most artisanal, hard-to-find craft beers we can get,” said Winkler. The craft beer names are not unlike those of race horses: Pay to Play, The Whale, Earn your Keep, Super Spruce.
Hetta offers cocktail ideas on their website, but Darren says straight-up is still the way to glögg. “Although ‘hot wines’ are popular in Europe and many places outside the U.S., the idea of drinking a wine that is made to be served warm still continues to surprise people so I would say that is still the most interesting,” he said. “Beyond that, the mixology community has really started to embrace it and we are hearing about all kinds of interesting cocktails that feature Hetta and really highlight its unique spice profile. We met some people at the Christmas tree farm this weekend that were spiking their hot chocolate with Hetta — this is an idea you will likely see pop up at öl this winter.”
Darren added that there will soon be “a new twist” on Hetta and some interesting programming at öl, including a beer-swap club and some special events. “We are also looking forward to seeing some snow as we move into January when we have some fun events planned around winter sports in the Catskills and of course, Vermont where Hetta is now served at a number of big ski resorts.”
Hetta öl is open Fridays from 3-7 p.m., Saturday from 1-7 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m.